London: While the one missing piece of silverware from Roger Federer’s vast trophy room may be less than a fortnight away from deliverance via the Davis Cup final, the Swiss superstar remains in impressive pursuit of a record-extending seventh ATP World Tour Finals title.
On the same day that Federer was named with Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka to spearhead Switzerland’s finals team in its quest for a historic first Davis cup victory against France in Lille next week, the second seed seized solo status as the only undefeated player in Group B after clobbering US Open finalist Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-2 in 69 minutes at London’s O2 Arena.
As a result, Federer almost certainly qualified for the semi-finals of the season finale for the 12th time in 13 consecutive attempts, having won all four sets and 25 of his 37 games. Day one losers Andy Murray and Milos Raonic were scheduled to meet in the evening session.
Nishikori has achieved plenty this season, but was uncharacteristically untidy against Federer in the fifth successive straight sets match of the tournament, logging five double faults among 30 unforced errors against his one-time idol.
The Japanese star, who had won two of the pair’s four previous meetings, twice called for the trainer to treat an injured right wrist, and Federer said it was clear the world No.5 had not played at his best.
“For some reason he couldn’t get it done. Maybe I was playing too well (on) defence and offense, mixing up my serve good enough,” said Federer. “But I know that Kei can play better. So for me it was really important to take advantage of the fact that I was feeling really good, and then maybe he was struggling a little bit today.”
Federer may be the oldest man to qualify for the year-end championships since 35-year-old Andre Agassi in 2005, but his light-footed court coverage remains exceptional and his shot-making immaculate. Seventeen net approaches on a “somewhat slow” court met with mixed success, with Federer saying the conditions favoured the best movers, and neutered the bigger servers such as Berdych and Raonic.
“I think it’s very much a game of movement and the baseline game. Whoever’s better from the baseline has the upper hand, then dominates. I think that’s why we’re seeing heavy scorelines, because it’s just hard to serve your way out of trouble. It’s almost not possible time and time again,” said Federer, who is yet to be broken in his two matches. “From that standpoint, I think the best movers are most likely going to come through here.”
Federer also remains in contention for a record-equalling sixth stint as the year-end No.1, and can overtake Novak Djokovic if he sweeps to the title undefeated and wins one live Davis Cup rubber – provided that the Serb loses a round-robin match and then progresses no further than the semi-finals.
Not that top spot is on Federer’s mind, apparently. “It was never the goal to win world number one,” he insists. “My focus is rather to try to win the World Tour Finals here, then play a good (Davis Cup) finals next week. The rankings anyway are going to follow or not. I’m just pleased that I’m winning my matches right about now.”
The Swiss Davis Cup team for the nation’s first decider since 1992 is completed by Marco Chiudinelli and Michael Lammer, while France has nominated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils, Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet for the claycourt tie from November 21-23.